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News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Fighting Back Against Invasive Lionfish

Posted On June 2, 2016 by

Invasive lionfish are a massive problem that requires creative solutions. One of the most popular approaches to lionfish management is the lionfish derby: An all-day fishing competition where teams collect as many lionfish as possible to compete for prizes. Often, the events bring together local communities in the evening to learn about (and snack on!) lionfish.

In May, Ocean Conservancy was thrilled to help sponsor the 2016 Sebastian Lionfish Fest hosted by Indian River County, Florida. I sat down with Kendra Cope, Indian River County’s coastal environmental specialist and sea turtle coordinator, to learn more about her efforts.

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Lionfish: A Crash Course

Posted On March 17, 2016 by

There’s big news in the fight against invasive lionfish. This week, Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida’s 26th District introduced a bill that would make more funding available for researchers studying lionfish in their invaded range. The bill directs the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to award $1,500,000 in higher education grants to combat lionfish, including projects that help us learn about lionfish impacts and how to mitigate them.

In honor of this newly-introduced bill, we pulled together a refresher course on the lionfish invasion. Read on to see how lionfish are impacting the ecosystem (and what people are doing about it!)

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The Ocean’s Least Wanted: 4 Invasive Species to Know

Posted On February 24, 2016 by

This week we are diving into one of the biggest conservation threats worldwide: invasive species. Defined as organisms that have been introduced into an area where they aren’t native and are negatively impacting the ecosystem, the economy and/or human health, invasive species account for $1.4 trillion in damage annually. In the United States alone, 42% of Threatened and Endangered Species are at risk due to invasives.

Some marine invasive species hitchhike on ships or in ballast water, while others are intentionally released by well-meaning but misguided aquarium owners. Regardless of how they arrive, marine invasive species put both ecosystems and economies at risk. And in a time of massive global trade where 45,000 cargo ships move more than 10 billion tons of ballast water worldwide each year, conditions are ripe for invasive species to spread.

In honor of National Invasive Species Awareness Week, we’re delving into some marine invasives that are wreaking havoc in their non-native environments. Here are four marine invasive species you should know:

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“Shifts Happen”: Maine’s Fishing Communities Talk Climate Change

Posted On August 12, 2013 by

Lobster boats in Maine

Photo: rkleine via Flickr

On a recent day that would otherwise have been perfect for fishing, a group of Maine fishermen and lobstermen opted to remain indoors. They gathered to discuss an issue serious enough to tie up the boats: the future of fishing in the face of climate change.

Increasing carbon pollution and its impacts on the ocean is something that may seem distant and far away for many. But fishermen are seeing changes now and living new realities today. Members of Maine’s fishing communities met recently to discuss these changes during a workshop hosted by the Island Institute, a Maine group dedicated to sustaining local coastal communities.

Shifting fish populations due to warming waters are bringing new species to Maine and pushing others out. Lobsters are more plentiful than ever, a would-be boon except for an excess of “shedders” (also thought to be because of a warming ocean) that sell for a much lower rate than the usual hard-shelled individuals.

Green crabs, an invasive species, have moved north as waters have warmed, and are eating their way through the local shoreline, leading local clammer Walt Coffin to conclude, “We’ll be out of business in two years.”

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Wrangling Invasive Species in Cajun Tennis Shoes

Posted On September 27, 2012 by

Credit: peternijenhuis flickr stream

If I were to tell you there’s a rodeo for hunting invasive species, or that I feed my dog treats made of swamp rats, you’d probably think I have my Cajun tennis shoes (shrimp boots) on too tight. But if you go to just one of these events, you’d immediately see the innovation and creativity that is put into eradicating and raising awareness of invasive species…and that my boots fit just fine.

Rio Grande Cichlids, Nutria Rats, and Lionfish are among an already too long and growing list of invasive species that now call the Gulf Coast home. If these species don’t sound familiar, think Kudzu – the vine that ate the south. These unwelcome visitors, introduced accidentally or purposely, out-compete native species for space and resources. But the Gulf Coast is not the only area fighting invasive species; The West Coast of North America is currently grappling with debris from the Japanese tsunami and the hitchhiking creatures washing up with it.

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Incredible Journey: Dock Propelled from Japan to Oregon Carries a Lesson in Biology

Posted On August 30, 2012 by

Workers clean off the dock that washed ashore in Oregon. Credit: NOAA

Recently, contractors hauled away the final piece of a concrete dock weighing more than 165 tons that washed up on an Oregon beach after a 14-month journey across the Pacific Ocean. The dock was one of four that broke loose from the Japanese fishing port of Misawa during last year’s tsunami. One dock was found in Japan, a second turned up in Oregon in early June, and two are still missing.

The largest tsunami-borne object to travel across the Pacific and wash up on the West Coast so far, the dock generated immediate interest from the public. More than 1,000 people a day visited the site to pose for photos and be part of history. An enterprising artist even painted a breaking wave along one of the dock’s massive seven-foot-high sides.

Scientists at Oregon State University have been studying the impacts of invasive marine species for decades. But when the Misawa dock showed up about five miles down the coast from their Hatfield Marine Science Center, what they found defied their expectations. The Misawa dock was covered with hitchhikers: two tons of marine life – algae, crabs, shrimp, mussels, sea stars and more.

Essentially a floating island, the dock carried a complete ecosystem of Japanese coastal species, transported more than 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. Scientists identified nearly 100 different species of sea life on the dock, including a number of species—like the brown kelp Undaria, the Asian shore crab and the North Pacific sea star—that are known to pose especially high ecological risks when introduced to new territories. Continue reading »